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Remaking an NJ marsh with dredged sediment for new wind port

Posted on July 1, 2024

In a groundbreaking “design-with-nature” project, New Jersey is repurposing 600,000 cubic yards of dredged sediment from the Delaware Bay, relevant to the construction of the New Jersey Wind Port, an offshore wind marshalling and manufacturing hub in Salem County. The sediment, equivalent to about 45,000 dump trucks’ worth, is being used to rehabilitate the Abbotts Meadow Wildlife Management Area, a 365-acre tract located five miles northwest of the Wind Port.

Historically, such sediment would have been disposed of at distant sites or dumped at sea. However, New Jersey’s Departments of Transportation and Environmental Protection, along with the Economic Development Authority, opted to utilize the material to revitalize the marshland. The project aims to rebuild the marsh, which had degraded into open water due to centuries of salt hay farming and other disruptions.

Scott Douglas, dredging program director for the Transportation Department’s Office of Marine Resources, emphasized the project’s ecological significance. “The marsh platform had degraded and reverted to open water,” Douglas said. “We evaluated the hydrology and determined how much material was needed to restore the site to support a healthy marsh.”

Partnering with WSP, a national environmental consulting and engineering firm, the state launched New Jersey’s largest “beneficial use” project. This method aligns with the “design-with-nature” philosophy, aiming to complement natural forces rather than resist them. The project involves pumping dredged sediment to areas of the marsh that have subsided significantly, some by as much as six feet, to restore high-marsh habitats critical for species like the northern harrier, black rail, and saltmarsh sparrow.

Katie Axt, WSP’s project manager, highlighted the innovative nature of the project. “This is the first time the state, with its partners, has coordinated a large channel project with a restoration effort,” Axt said. “It’s great to see the state normalizing sediment as a resource.”

Pumping operations began last November, using two dredges equipped with powerful pumps to move the sediment slurry through a 24-inch pipeline. By January, the site was graded to replicate its natural landscape, with the hope that signs of new marsh life would emerge by summer. The goal is to create a diverse matrix of habitats, bringing ecological balance back to Abbotts Meadow.

This restoration is directly tied to the development of the New Jersey Wind Port, highlighting the interconnectedness of infrastructure projects and environmental stewardship in the state’s push towards sustainable offshore wind energy.


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